- How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?
I write in two different genres: crime fiction and romantic comedy and ordinarily, I’d say crime fiction requires a lot more research. I spend weeks on the internet checking details and facts and also speaking to experts in Forensics or those in the police force. However, given What Happens in France hinges around a crazy game show set in France, it required a substantial amount of research in the form of applying for auditions and then actually be selected to get onto a few televised game shows, as well as several weeks driving around France, learning about the regions in the book. It took almost two years in total to gather all the information I needed.
I met some extremely interesting characters during auditions and on shows who gave me the inspiration for some of those in the book although I never met anyone like ballet dancer Oscar, owner of the show-stealing pug, Biggie Smalls.
- What resources do you use? In general and for the last book that you wrote?
I use the internet all the time and am a member of various crime writer groups where I can post questions for the experts in the group, but for this book I drew on my own experiences. This is how I invariably write romantic comedies. If a character does something in one of my humorous books then the chances are I’ll have tried it out first. One book saw me doing a zip wire, belly dancing, eating locusts, zorbing, and diving with sharks, while another saw me take up stand-up comedy. This book was a breeze by comparison although I did have to go one those game shows and make an idiot of myself. (Again!)
- How many times have you been rejected before your first novel was accepted or before this book was accepted?
Goodness, I could paper every wall in my house with all the rejection slips I’ve received over the years.
My first efforts were children’s stories aimed at teaching 3-5-year-olds French. It was back in the days, before you could do everything online, when you had to plough through the Writers and Artist’s Handbook to find agents or publishers you thought would be interested in your work, write an accompanying letter, then remortgage your house to pay for the printer ink and stamps so you could post your weighty manuscripts to them.
When I turned my attention to the adult market in 2010, things had changed and I submitted to various publishers online. After nuerous rejections, I gave up. I didn’t want to wait years to get it accepted. I’d only intended writing the one book, Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines, because it was on my bucket list. I had no idea it would be the start of a new career for me. I looked at self-pubbing and I was given the chance to self-publish it with FeedaRead for a very tiny fee, I chose that route. I also published it with Smashwords and Amazon and could never have imagined how well it would have performed. Five months after publication, I found myself featured in Woman’s Own Magazine as a best-selling author and following that, a small publishing house took me on. The rest, as they say, is history and I now write for Bookouture/Hachette and Canelo. What Happens in France is my 18th book to be published although I’ve managed to write a further four books since I completed it which are yet to be released.
- Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?
Although I chose the self-publication route, I wish in many ways I’d been more patient and waited for a lucky break with a publisher.
The workload involved in self-publication is huge. You not only have to write, edit, format, design covers and get your book published, you have to market it. I found marketing took up all my time and prevented me from writing further books.
I would agree it is imperative to build an audience before you self-publish or approach a publisher. I ran a humorous blog (like Amanda Wilson in my debut novel) for over a year, writing posts daily until I had several 1000s of followers. When I launched my debut novel, I held an all-day virtual party on the blog with games, competitions and jokes. I spent all day and night, chatting to the virtual guests. That party sold copies, got reviews and propelled Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines into the limelight and gave me the start I needed. Without my followers and the friends I made online, that wouldn’t have happened.
Publishers like to see you have an online presence – that you are committed to your brand, if you like, and are active on social media. It is something that every author should continue to keep up, no matter what stage they are at in their career. Your readers deserve interaction and social media gives them that chance.
- Does writing provide sufficient income to live on? And how long did it take before this happened?
If you’d asked me this 3 years ago, I’d have said an emphatic no. The first 7 years, I made a dismal amount of money, in spite of success with my first novel and my non-fiction humorous book, Grumpy Old Menopause which not only won The People’s Book Prize Award but saw me sitting on the BBC Breakfast red sofa, chatting to Bill Turner and Susanna Reid about it. Even with the air time and further magazine exposure, I still only brought in enough to pay for a decent holiday. The turning point came in 2016, when I signed with Bookouture. Because they’re a digital publisher (like Canelo) they can turn around books faster than a traditional publisher. So in theory, the more you can write, the more you can potentially earn. 2017 was the first year I earned sufficient to actually pay household bills. It came at the right time because my husband is now retired, and we live off his pension, so my writing income is a real boost.
- What is the funniest thing that happened to you on a book tour?
Not so much on a blog tour but in my early days when I did my own publicity, I managed to secure several radio interviews during the launch of one of my books. I had all the times and dates written down in my diary (very professional) and had agreed to be interviewed on a popular radio show in the USA. The interview was to take place by phone and I was very excited about the opportunity to chat to new, potential readers in the United States. On the actual day, I suddenly realised I had agreed to be on a show that would be broadcast live at 2 a.m. my time not 2 p.m. as I had thought. It was too late to change the date and I didn’t dare tell my husband, Mr Grumpy, who goes to bed punctually at 9.30 p.m. every night and does not like being kept awake, so I stayed awake and tiptoed downstairs at quarter to two in the morning to wait for the phone to ring. I was frightened to talk loudly and wake up my family, so I whispered to the presenter who kept telling me to speak up and then halfway through the interview, Mr Grumpy turned up in a foul mood, shouting, ‘Who the f*** Is on telephone at this time of the morning. Tell them to f*** off’ Unfortunately it was a live broadcast and the listeners got to hear every word. To cap it all, he grabbed the receiver from my hand and shouted a few more obscenities before putting it down. I emailed my apologies but I wasn’t invited back on the show!
- Which author had the most influence on your writing? Your writing style? Your writing genre?
Alison Kervin OBE and author of The WAGS Diary (2009) and WAGS at the World Cup WORLD (2010) I picked up her first book from a ‘living bookcase’ while on holiday and it had me in stitches from start to finish. When I finally put it down, I decided I wanted to produce something that entertaining. I spent the next few months writing my first novel and emailed Alison to tell her she had inspired me. She replied with a very encouraging email. Had I not read that book, I doubt I would have had the confidence to start writing.
As a child Carol Wyer was always moving, and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published and journalism in many magazines.
Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.